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Role Playing (Games)

A Retrospective on Planescape Torment 99

Despite the cult status of Planescape: Torment, it was one of the least successful entries in the Baldur's Gate family of games. At the Rock, Paper, Shotgun blog Keiron Gillen has a great look back at the game, with a specific emphasis on the connection between the game mechanics and the story, and the importance of Torment to games as a medium. "While we're a long way from the videogame equivalent of a Tolstoy or a Dostoevsky, for what it's worth, Planescape is as close as we've come, and worthy of real literary consideration. Of course, such dry analysis always turns people away from the Great dead Russians - when it should be remembered these are works full of life and joys and - yes - deep sadness. The same is true here. It's a philosophical buddy-hatey road movie based around the search for the self and the endlessly reiterated question "What can change the nature of a man?". And you find yourself lingering on that. Not just what can change the nature of your character - but what made you and what manner of man are you anyway."
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A Retrospective on Planescape Torment

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  • Unreliable narrators (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LarsWestergren ( 9033 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:22AM (#20765329) Homepage Journal
    It is a shame that KOTOR:2 was rushed, and treated so poorly by LucasArts. That was ALMOST a truly great game.

    Yes, I have great hopes for Team Gizka's [] restoration project.

    Rest of the post contains plenty of **SPOILERS**.

    Like the fact that Chris likes to take the RPG/CRPG conventions and turn them into plot elements - for instance in PS:T, the fact that your character in computer games always is immortal (since you can just reload) - there you play the Immortal One.

    Same with KOTOR 2. We choose to ignore the fact that our characters in RPGs gain godlike powers in very short time. If this was normal, wouldn't everyone be doing it - be out whacking rats and progressively more difficult wildlife to gain robust health, superstrength and intelligence? Here it is suddenly part of the plot - no, not everyone can do it. It seems that you, and you only, have a rather sinister power to gain supernatural strength by absorbing the life force (XP) of those you kill. The character might have thought a lot about this, but since there is no voice over a la Blade Runner, the player doesn't know it.

    Sounds like he MAY be going down a similar path with the soul eating in Mask of the Betrayer. But we will see.

    Bioshock might have been taken a leaf out of the same book. Some people have complained that "it is so unrealistic that the player injects himself with a syringe that is just laying there in the beginning of the game, ruined the immersion for me". Well, it turns out later that he was compelled to do it. The character might have fought against it, filled with horror, but again, this the player does not know until later in the game. So they use the literary device known as "the unreliable narrator". The reader/player identifies with the character (even more so in games of course), but it later turns out he/she did not tell everything.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2007 @04:56AM (#20765489)
    There are two games which I hold above all others in terms of art and story, Planescape: Torment and Grim Fandango. The fact that both at their core are about characters in the afterlife trying to move on seems to be an eerie coincidence in my book.
  • by lsw ( 95027 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @06:16AM (#20765865) Homepage
    Still to this day I havent had the luck of finding a greater game than Torment. Still to this day I utter random quotes with some friends such as "I endure and by enduring I grow stronger" (Dak'kon, voiced by one of the x-files guys) and everyone smiles recognizing immediately where it comes from :-)

    Plus how could a fantasy roleplaying game voiced by Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpsons) be bad?

    the commercial problem was that the Planescape setting was so outrageous and out of the ordinary field of vision of your garden variety D&D fanboy that to some was a bit of a put off and didnt picked it up to begin with.

    I dont believe that there is another game that deserves a remake more than this one. I'm sure given the dire finances of Interplay you can pick up the rights of the game pretty easily.
  • Re:Seminal? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:00AM (#20768775)
    Sequel would work fine.

    *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    Before going to "hell" as it may be, Fall From Grace tells The Nameless One that if there is any way to get him out, she will do so. I mean, main party members include a ghost, a demon, a floating skull, and a tiefling (half-demon). Something tells me they wouldn't have much trouble getting to that plane and getting him out. Of course, that game would largely be focused around the other chars, rather than TNO himself, though he could still be part of the story.

    Also, I must say: the ending video of this game was the one time a game has ever brought tears to my eyes. He wakes up, looks out into the field of endless demons and devils fighting each other, then looks to the side and calmy pulls a mace from a body laying to his side. Picks it up and slowly looks at the head as the begging question "What can change the nature of a man?" echoes in the background. Though his face shows almost no emotion there is this absolute wave of sadness that you can feel, then it pans out with him slowly walking towards the battle accepting his fate. The music really helps set the tone here, and I have all of the PS:T sound track on my computer and still listen to it quite often :).

    I've played other games that were fantastic - heck Baldur's Gate 2 was great, as was KOTOR and Jade Empire, but NOTHING quite measures up to Planescape Torment. It's a shame that a sequel will likely never come out. If it had the depth and play time of the original I'd gladly pay ten times what a normal game costs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2007 @11:39AM (#20769365)
    I loved/love PS:T. It has the deepest, most well executed story I have ever seen in a video game. When ever I would read about Ebert saying that video games can't be art, Torment jumped to mind as incontrovertible evidence that he couldn't find his ass with both hands and a convex mirror.

    I actually just loaded this back up under WinXP a couple of weeks ago and have been playing through it again for the first time in probably 5 years. Runs great as long as you patch it. Gameplay gets a little tedious to me at some points in the game, and the graphics are dated as hell now, but the story and dialogue have definitely stood the test of time.

    Check Amazon if you're looking for a copy. There are a number of vendors listed there selling "new" copies at reasonable prices.

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